Warm Up Your Trainees with CAMPFIRE

Create Interactive, Sensory Filled Training Experiences

Techniques to foster learning are rarely spontaneous. Careful planning and a well thought out strategy is key to keeping attendees focused, engaged, and invested in classroom activities and discussions.

Build a ‘Campfire’ – At Zelus, one of our favorite trainee engagement methods is called ‘Campfire.’ Simply put, ‘Campfire’ is a training technique that prepares participants physically and mentally for an activity or discussion.  It keeps students engaged and actively learning with a greater focus on fostering a fresh, new atmosphere of collaborative learning and critical thinking.

Spark the Fire for Learning! – Throughout history, people have gathered around a campfire to connect with others, share stories, solve problems, provide support, and strengthen bonds. The goal of ‘Campfire’ in the classroom is to create a connection between the learner and the content, inspire critical thinking, challenge learners, and encourage participation from students who are often silent in traditional learning settings by making them feel more comfortable in a relaxed environment.

Facilitated discussions that follow the viewing of a video, the listening of an audio clip, or an instructor-led training session can be more impactful when you set the scene, add ambiance, and tie in the relevance of the topic to your learning objectives. This is an innovative method to personalize the learning experience and achieve a true transfer of knowledge in a fun and memorable way.

The ‘Campfire’ process invites each student to connect like the crackling flames of a fire, burning brightly, creating a sense of warmth and comfort in sharing that makes for an effective new learning space. If you invest time and effort to make the session meaningful and relevant, your students will sense something important is about to happen.

Set the Scene
Since it’s likely that your organization will frown upon you lighting something in your training room on fire, here are ways you can safely set up ‘Campfire.’ Here’s an example for a video lesson:

  • Dim the lights in the classroom.
  • Tell the class:
    • Welcome to our Campfire. Gather your chairs at the front of the room in a semi-circle.
    • We are going to use all our senses at our ‘Campfire.’
    • What do you SEE? Smoke, flames, shadows, logs, rocks, trees, stars, moon.
    • What do you HEAR? Crackle and sizzle of the logs, campfire stories, the hoot of an owl, crickets, wind through the trees, music, singing, harmonica, guitar, stories.
    • What do you FEEL? Heat, warmth, wind, breeze.
    • What TASTES do you associate with a campfire? S’mores, Hot Dogs, Coffee, Hot Chocolate.
    • What do you SMELL? Smoke, burning wood, night air, leaves, and trees.
  • Why did we go to this effort to create our campfire? We wanted to take you out of the ordinary so you could mentally pause for a few moments to best receive and absorb the important information we’ll be sharing with you.
  • Pay close attention to the content you are about to view.  Afterwards, we’ll stay at our ‘Campfire’ and discuss your thoughts on the key topics and takeaways.
  • Now sit back and relax while we watch a video ‘underneath the stars.’

When should you light a ‘Campfire’?
At Zelus, ‘Campfire’ is a crucial step in helping students “join the conversation” instead of having a series of closed, two-person exchanges in which the instructor asks a question, and only one student responds. You want your adult learners to be attentive, involved, and engaged; right?  This method encourages trainees to be active participants in their learning journey.

‘Campfire’ is an effective engagement tool for changing up the learning environment to:

  • View a video or listen to an audio clip, followed by a facilitated discussion of the content.
    • This encourages active listening and paying attention for specifics while establishing the importance of the topic.
  • Describe the expectations for a facilitated discussion after a lecture.
    • This intentional set up keeps the discussion focused, relevant, and productive.
  • Prepare for a learning game or web-based training.
    • It sets the stage and the learning expectations for the experience.

The developments in adult learning principles over the last decade have made fostering effective classroom discussions and engaging learning activities a crucial set of teaching skills. At Zelus, we’ve seen how our ‘Campfire’ can be an effective engagement tool that sparks a student’s learning and makes a deep transfer of knowledge possible.

Why not give ‘Campfire’ a try?  We’d love to hear about and see pictures of your experience! We may even feature you in a future blog or social media post. Drop us an email info@zelusllc.com.

Mary Anne Polson is a Learning and Development professional with an extensive background of over 20 years as a Training Manager and Trainer at major multinational corporations. She follows her passion of helping others achieve success in Customer Service, Sales, & Call Centers through her work at Zelus LLC.